Nolan Robinson, a recent graduate of ETHS and Northwestern University, has been selected as one of 10 up-and-coming performers in this year’s New Faces Sing Broadway series produced by Porchlight Music Theatre.
Porchlight, a center for musical theater in Chicago, has received honors including 49 Joseph Jefferson (“Jeff”) Awards and 15 Black Theatre Alliance awards. Its innovative New Faces series features songs from Broadway musicals that debuted during the 1951 Broadway season, September 1950 through August 1951. The New Faces program creates a platform for and draws Chicagoland’s attention to emerging talent.
Robinson got the good news via email about 10 days after his audition, where he sang “They Call the Wind Maria,” a hit song from the show Paint Your Wagon. The ballad, with lyrics by Alan J. Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, is a love song of longing that was one of the most popular songs of 1951.
Initially Robinson assumed he had not been selected due to the lag time between his audition and being notified, so he was “shocked and surprised” to receive the good news.
“Porchlight is unlike any other theater organization,” Robinson said. “They choose people with potential and they make their own stars. It means they believe in you and want other people to see you.”
In addition to Robinson, the other performers selected include Daryn Alexus, Daniel De Cranie-Pierre, Nick Johnson, Abbey Loria, Caroline Lyell, Luke Nowakowski, Ziare Paul-Emile, Alix Rhode and Jerod Turner. The performers will sing songs from an array of shows including Guys and Dolls, The King and I, and Paint Your Wagon.
Each performer is assigned a solo, a duet and a small group number, is included as part of the ensemble for the opening and closing songs, and also participates in sing-along numbers.
In an email, Robinson wrote, “I’ll be soloing ‘We Kiss in a Shadow’ from The King and I and dueting ‘Guys and Dolls’ from Guys and Dolls. And I am in one of the group numbers singing ‘Top Banana’ from the show Top Banana.”
“My audition for New Faces was less nerve-wracking than other auditions I’ve had because I know this team. They are friends who are professional mentors,” he said.
Robinson was first selected for a Porchlight show when he was a senior at ETHS. He understudied for two roles in The Scottsboro Boys, but did not see any time on stage. There have been a few other roles since, but nothing as big as New Faces. He graduated from ETHS in 2017 and from Northwestern in 2021.
Director, performer and composer David Fiorello directs this show. Michael McBride, a Jeff Award-winning music director, composer and educator, provides music direction and arrangements. David Girolmo, a Broadway veteran of more than 100 shows and winner of a Jeff Award, hosts and sings the opening and closing numbers, accompanied by the 10 performers.
Robinson said Porchlight creates a comfortable environment for up-and-comers in the artistic community.
“They see talent in anyone they’ve worked with or heard about. They reach out to get to know you. If you are good, have heart, are kind and focused, they want to work with you,” he said.
For New Faces, now in its eighth season, the 90-minute show is woven together with narration of historical events from that time period, which provide context for the musicals and songs selected. It will also include opportunities for audience participation, such as sing-alongs and a trivia contest with Porchlight merchandise offered as prizes. Two additional New Faces programs are planned for later in the year.
There are only two performances scheduled. The first will take place at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23, at Evanston SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave. The second show is the following evening, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24, at The Arts Club of Chicago, 201 E. Ontario St.
Tickets are $37 for the Evanston show and $70 for the Chicago performance; the Chicago ticket price includes a pre-show cocktail hour. Tickets are available at PorchlightMusicTheatre.org or by calling the Porchlight Music Theatre box office, 773-777-9884.